Witch hazel native plant in Ozark landscapes

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring is just around the corner, and a favorite harbinger of spring in the Ozarks is the witch hazel plant according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

Witch hazel is a native shrub that can be found across the Ozarks along streams, rivers and in other moist areas.

"We have two species in Missouri, one of which blooms in the fall and the Ozarks witch hazel, which blooms in the very early spring. The plant can grow to nine feet in height," said Byers.

Witch hazel extract is in shaving lotions and sprain medications, acts as an astringent, and comes from the leaves, bark and twigs.

"The name witch hazel originates from the use of branches of this shrub for water witching," said Byers.

The flowers on witch hazel are unique, and they look like spiders clinging to the bare shoots.

"The native witch hazel has flowers that are reddish to yellow. Horticultural forms usually have larger flowers," Byers said.

The plant is attractive all year round, and the fall foliage is especially nice, yellow in color.

"The seed pods split open in the fall, shooting the seeds long distances," said Byers.